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GCSE computing courses 'not widely accessible enough'

20/12/2016 Joanna

More work is needed to ensure all students across the UK have access to GCSE computing qualifications, according to a new study.

Research carried out by the University of Roehampton analysed the uptake of computing qualifications at GCSE and A level, finding that many schools and colleges are only seeing a small fraction of pupils choosing to continue the subject.

The national curriculum states that all pupils must have the opportunity to study computer science at key stage 4, but in 2015 only 28 per cent of schools entered any students for the GCSE. In schools that did offer computing, take up was low, with only 5.5 per cent of students taking the GCSE and a mere 1.7 per cent continuing the discipline at A level.

Furthermore, while 31.6 per cent of boys-only schools and 29.1 per cent of mixed schools offered computing at GCSE, only 19.6 per cent of girls-only educational facilities. As such, only 99 students in girls' schools across England took A-level computing in 2015.

The research also showed that computing is currently a subject that is more accessible to better-off students. Pupils who have received free school meals in the last six years are underrepresented in GCSE computing, with urban schools more likely to offer the subject than those in rural locations.

Additionally, students tend to achieve lower grades in computing when compared to the top 20 largest subjects, regardless of gender.

Peter Kemp, senior lecturer in computing education at the University of Roehampton's school of education, said: "Computing is all around us, it has a big impact in the way the world works and it's important that students have a good understanding of the world we live in.

"There are multiple groups - especially girls - with poor access to computing qualifications and steps need to be taken to increase accessibility of the subject and encourage students to appreciate its value."

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